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Options narrowing for reform

By Ben Pershing
The saga of health-care legislation over the last six months has included plenty of near-death experiences for the reform movement. Now, one way or the other, the story is nearing its end.

Under the headline, "Dem health care talks collapsing," Politico writes that "House and Senate leaders struggled to coalesce around a strategy to rescue the plan, in the face of growing pessimism among lawmakers that the president's top priority can survive. The legislative landscape was filled with obstacles: House Democrats won't pass the Senate bill. Senate Democrats don't want to start from scratch just to appease the House. And the White House still isn't telling Congress how to fix the problem." The most obvious solution -- House passage of the Senate bill -- isn't faring well. The Washington Post writes that Nancy Pelosi "described her members as vehemently opposed to a provision that benefits only Nebraska's Medicaid system. ... Also problematic are the federal subsidies the Senate would offer to uninsured individuals, which some House liberals view as insufficient, and the excise tax it would impose on high-value policies, which could hit union households." The Washington Times notes "Pelosi left open the possibility that the House could pass the Senate's bill along with another bill to serve as a "patch" to fix what the House doesn't like in the Senate's plan. But she called that plan 'problematic.'"

What's Plan B? "There is growing consensus in the House Democratic Caucus that comprehensive healthcare legislation is dead and the only option is to pass a series of piecemeal measures," The Hill writes. "Congressional Democrats said they were focusing on toughening regulations on the health-insurance industry in a bid to assemble a scaled-down, more populist health-care bill after the party's defeat in Massachusetts," the Wall Street Journal reports. The New York Times (channeling Rahm Emanuel?) plays up the idea "that a smaller bill would have a better chance. ... The consensus measure would be less ambitious than the bills approved last year. It would extend insurance coverage to perhaps 12 million to 15 million people -- and provide political cover to Democrats, who said they could not simply drop the issue after spending so much time and effort on it. The pared-back approach would cover fewer than half of those who, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would gain coverage under the House and Senate bills. But it would not put the government on the hook for what critics say is a new entitlement, a change that would appeal to some Republicans."

No fan of the idea of a slimmed-down bill, Paul Krugman pens "A message to House Democrats: This is your moment of truth. You can do the right thing and pass the Senate health care bill. Or you can look for an easy way out, make excuses and fail the test of history." But the latest USA Today/Gallup poll finds "a majority of Americans say President Obama and congressional Democrats should suspend work on the health care bill that has been on the verge of passage and consider alternatives that would draw more Republican support. ... 55% call for Democrats to go back to the drawing board for a more bipartisan proposal while 39% say they should continue to work on the current bill. One in four Democrats say lawmakers should draft a new bill, as do 56% of independents and 87% of Republicans."

As for the administration's next step, John Harris writes that Obama could learn something from the last Democratic president: "It is an irony of the Obama administration -- given that it is staffed with so many people with high-level experience during Bill Clinton's presidency, including one Cabinet member named Clinton -- that its basic attitude toward Clinton-style governance is hostile. ... The people around Obama are romantics. They dream of Obama as a transformational figure, looming large on history's stage. They see Clinton as at best a transitional figure, whose poll-tested pragmatism and incremental policies loom small." Gerald Seib uses the exact same lede as Harris: "What would Bill Clinton do? ... More specifically, the question is whether this president can learn anything from the way President Clinton recovered from a much bigger electoral disaster for Democrats in 1994, setting himself up for a big comeback re-election win two years later. In the president's early reactions to Massachusetts, there are at least a couple of hints that he might take a cue from the previous Democratic president--as well as some conflicting indications he might ultimately choose to walk a different path." But Lou Cannon suggests Obama should follow the example of another predecessor -- Ronald Reagan -- and "stay the course."

Meanwhile, the quest to divine the "real meaning" of Scott Brown's victory continues. Jill Lawrence writes that post-election polls show Brown's win "was not a wholesale rejection of President Obama, his policies, or his health care plan. ... So far there are Republican, Democratic and independent telephone polls of Massachusetts residents who voted Tuesday. In the GOP poll, 38 percent said they voted in opposition to Obama's policies and the direction he is taking the country. Another 32 percent said they were voting in support of his policies and 27 percent said his policies were not a factor in their vote. The majority, in other words, were not trying to tell Obama to change course. ... All three polls confirm that health care mobilizes voters on both sides." But Charles Krauthammer says "Democrats are delusional: Scott Brown won by running against Obama, not Bush. He won by brilliantly nationalizing the race, running hard against the Obama agenda, most notably Obamacare. Killing it was his No. 1 campaign promise." Brown himself got plenty of coverage for visiting the Capitol Thursday, earning color stories from the Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe and others. Cosmopolitan has some advice for the centerfold-turned-senator.

Brown's race appears to have been the last one to occur under the old campaign finance regime. "Overturning a century-old restriction," the Los Angeles Times reports, "the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that corporations could spend as much as they wanted to sway voters in federal elections. In a landmark 5-4 decision, the court's conservative bloc said that corporations had the same right to free speech as individuals, and for that reason the government could not stop corporations from spending to help their favored candidates." The Associated Press writes that the court "has opened the door to a new era of big and possibly shadowy election spending, rolled back anti-corruption laws and emboldened critics of fundraising limits to press on. In the middle of it all will be voters, trying to figure out who's telling the truth. ... The opinion represents the latest development in the cycle of scandal-law-loophole that has typified the United States' approach to campaign finance regulation."

The Wall Street Journal talks to big donors and finds "corporations, labor unions and other political entities are gearing up to play a larger role in influencing elections in 2010 and beyond." The New York Times writes "the Supreme Court has handed a new weapon to lobbyists. If you vote wrong, a lobbyist can now tell any elected official that my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election." Roll Call reports "Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill pledged to explore legislative alternatives" to counteract the ruling.

The Washington Post says the court's "first major decision of the current term might signal a new willingness to act boldly" as the conservative majority "overturned two of the court's past decisions -- including one made as recently as six years ago." Rick Hasen agrees, "It is time for everyone to drop all the talk about the Roberts court's 'judicial minimalism,' with Chief Justice Roberts as an 'umpire' who just calls balls and strikes. Make no mistake, this is an activist court that is well on its way to recrafting constitutional law in its image." National Review says "Americans have cause to rejoice" that the court struck "a decisive blow against the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance restrictions, one of the worst abridgments of the First Amendment since the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798."

On Thursday, "Obama proposed new limits on the size and activities of the nation's largest banks, pushing a more muscular approach toward regulation that yanked down bank stocks and raised the stakes in his campaign to show he's tough on Wall Street," the Wall Street Journal reports, adding that "administration officials said they weren't trying to resurrect the Depression-era law--known as Glass-Steagall--that strictly divided commercial banks from the business of underwriting securities. Nor would their proposals force existing financial firms to downsize, officials said." The Washington Post calls it a clear indication that Paul Volcker's influence in the administration is on the rise and "Obama's most visible break yet from the reform philosophy that Geithner and his allies had been promoting earlier." Bloomberg reports "the global quarterly poll of investors and analysts who are Bloomberg subscribers finds that 77 percent of U.S. respondents believe Obama is too anti-business and four-out-of-five are only somewhat confident or not confident of his ability to handle a financial emergency."

By Ben Pershing  |  January 22, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Health Care , The Rundown  
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Ok here's how to take care of the health care plan. It's Very simple
Take away ALL the " special " health insurance plan all the senators and congressmen use. And TELL them they have to use the SAME health care plan all of us have to use. Problem solved.

Posted by: josuf100 | January 26, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

If the Democrats / Obama attempt to push this bill through on the sly, all hell will break loose. They do not seem to understand that the people are at a flashpoint on this subject matter and it would not do to push.

Posted by: prossers7 | January 26, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

The democrats gave away too much to lobbyists for trial lawyers, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, manufacturers of medical equipments etc. Those are the areas where true cost cutting can take place.
We have to perform all the cost cutting before any trial of reform. Any future plan must muster the means test, we cannot promise what we are not able to afford. In other words, do the cost cutting first before any promise.
Kenneth J. Wooh, M.D.

Posted by: kenjanewoohgmailcom | January 26, 2010 5:57 AM | Report abuse

There might be room to convince Brown that his constituency wants healthcare reform, according to the polls in paragraph 6, despite him campaigning against Obama's policy agenda.

I think Democrats are working to bring in Republican support, but at the same time reconciliation is a possible avenue. Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Reid would be the ones discussing that.

I think people can rally around the idea of an ambitious plan and that their reps don't become discouraged. Every person who is covered is a person who suffers less and can contribute more.

Posted by: saadiabchaudhry | January 25, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I think there is an opportunity to convince Brown that his voters actually want healthcare reform, according to what the poll numbers are saying. (Paragraph 6). Even if Brown campaigned against Obama's agenda, why would he not actually represent his constituency, many who one may presume would want to continue at least some aspects of Kennedy's vision for healthcare reform?

As far as the budget reconciliation process, the ones who will discuss how it is done are Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi. What I think we can rally around is an ambitious plan, and for them not to get discouraged and back down.

Posted by: saadiabchaudhry | January 25, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I don't get it why don't most Americans know that health reform is focused on three points:

1. No pre-existing conditions clauses.
2. Affordable healthcare and/or health insurance premiums.
3. All must be covered by insurance so all must pay with the rest of us helping the low income earner.

What is so terrible about this proposition? I think the problem is most Americans don't know the healthcare debate focuses on these three issues.

Posted by: mmrafferty | January 25, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

As an American living in London I can only hope that my country will one day have fair and equal access to medical treatment.

My mother is unemployed (as a result of the banking crisis) and I worry about what would happen should be become seriously ill - the current government medical package does not cover her for much.

I admit that the UK's NHS has its faults, but it is an enviable system and one I would never want to be without.

You can read more here:

Posted by: Leilalacrosse | January 25, 2010 5:50 AM | Report abuse

Speaker Pelosi: CRE Loans will end the unemployment problem within 2 months....Glass mfg, electricians, truckers, STEEL, Aluminum, plumbers, office equipment, architects, construction workers, concrete industry--will all be working Los Angeles alone there are 140 entitled CRE jobs with 70 or more units.....Credibility will be restored and responsible Health Care Reform will be accepted with honesty and transparency. (The Banks are now unfettered to make Prudent Loans & there are thousands of pristine Projects out there Nancy.)

Posted by: MSFT-PELOSI | January 22, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Obama should begin reconciliation with American business by withdrawing his doomed nomination of AFL-CIO/SEIU legal hit man Craig Becker, who argues that employers "should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees' election of representatives [unions]."

Posted by: indiedemocrat | January 22, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Hahahha die you dog die, stuck a dozen forks in it. This kick-back ridden bribe fest: Obamacare is DOA hooorahhh!!!!

Also of note: it looks like most of the only other posts are the tin foil hatters. Which means that the deal is done, over and we're back to the usual 16 people in any given sampling of 10 million or more that support Obama's agenda.

Posted by: spqr_us | January 22, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

TO: "edbyronadams" @ 10:23 a.m.

Glad to see the dark side is paying attention. Good people on the inside are onto you. It will take more than your lame psy ops to stop the restoration of justice in America. Tell your handler you need a new line. Have a nice day.

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 22, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Obama should not try to be like Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan, he should try to be Barack Obama. He needs to review his campaign promises and try to honesty answer why he has broken so many of them.

Obama needs to avoid being a fake populist and especially abandon blaming everything on Bush II. Saying the voters of Massachusetts were angry at Bush II is the reason why they elected a Republican is nearly hilarious.

Be honest, straight with the people, keep your promises, avoid more back room doors, maybe replace some of your advisors. There is still hope, if not for change people can believe in, maybe for some modest positive changes.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | January 22, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

2010 All Left-wing Democrats will be driven out

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | January 22, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Under the proposed health care initiative, preventive care, such as tin foil hats, will be free.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 22, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Memo to Team Obama:



A secretive multi-agency "coordinated action program" continues to use high-tech cell tower- basd microwave and laser weaponry to silently, invisibly torture, impair, and physiologically and neurologically entrain -- in effect, enslave -- many thousands of unjustly and unconstitutionally "targeted" Americans, right here at home.

These Americans, entire families, also are subject to relentless surveillance, financial sabotage and community watch vigilante stalking, vandalism and other acts of government-tolerated domestic terrorism.


Please read this, and demand action before it's too late:

See: (Journalism groups -- Reporting):

"U.S. Silently Tortures Americans with Cell Tower Microwaves" •
"Gestapo USA: Fed-Funded Vigilante Network Terrorizes America"
OR (see "stories" list)

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 22, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Narrowing options? The House and Senate versions are irreconcilable. The members are running scared after a Republican took Ted Kennedy's seat with opposing the health care reform as a linchpin of his campaign and the President has no history of effective political arm twisting and no time to take from visiting factories that are still running.

The options are closed except for nibbling at the margins in an attempt to save face. The pundits need another cup of coffee to wake them up.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 22, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

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